I am all for living a long and healthy life and this blog is filled with suggestions on achieving that. But, besides having a functional brain and body in our senior years, we also want to be happy about it. Harvard has studied a group of men and boys over the past 78 years in what is one of the longest studies of adult life ever done.
“The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men from the time they were teenagers into old age — 268 Harvard College sophomores, and 456 boys from Boston’s inner city.”
Here are five of the big lessons they learned about what contributes to a good life.
Lesson 1: Happy childhoods matter
Having warm relationships with parents in childhood predicts that you will have warmer and more secure relationships with those closest to you in adulthood. We found that warm childhoods reached across decades to predict more secure relationships with spouses at age 80. A close relationship with at least one sibling in childhood predicts that people are less likely to become depressed by age 50. And warmer childhood relationships predict better physical health in adulthood all the way into old age. Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Now, according to the American Heart Association, the sooner you start, the better.
People with no major heart disease risk factors in middle age live longer and stay healthy far longer than others, according to a 40-year study reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
“Good cardiovascular health in middle age delays the onset of many types of disease so that people live longer and spend a much smaller proportion of their lives with chronic illness,” said Norrina Allen, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
In the first study to analyze the impact of cardiovascular health in middle age on the duration of illness later in life, researchers examined data from the Chicago Health Association study, which did initial health assessments in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has followed participants on an ongoing basis using Medicare health records. Researchers determined how many participants had favorable factors: non-smokers, free of diabetes and normal weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; versus those with elevated risk factors or high risk factors. Continue reading
Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered three new agents to add to the emerging repertoire of drugs that aim to delay the onset of aging by targeting senescent cells – cells that contribute to frailty and other age-related conditions. A recent study of human cell cultures shows that the drugs, fisetin and two BCL-XL inhibitors – A1331852 and A1155463 – cleared senescent cells in vitro. Findings appear online in Aging.
“Senescent cells accumulate with age and at sites of multiple chronic conditions, such as in fat tissue in diabetes, the lungs in chronic pulmonary diseases, the aorta in vascular disease, or the joints in osteoarthritis,” says James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “At Mayo Clinic, we discovered the first senolytic drugs – agents that selectively eliminate senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. These senolytic agents alleviated a range of age- and disease-related problems in mice. We used the hypothesis-driven approach that we used to discover the first senolytic drugs, two published in early 2015 and another later in 2015, to discover these three new senolytic drugs.” Continue reading
I wrote this two years ago just ahead of the Super Bowl. Thought it was worth revisiting ahead of this year’s big game.
One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100
I write about diet, exercise and living longer. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is playing in the Super Bowl tomorrow. What’s the connection?
While I am big fan of the NFL and can’t wait for tomorrow’s game, I am writing about Tom Brady for totally other reasons. On January 16, I ran across the article Tom Brady Cannot Stop by Mark Leibovich in the New York Times Magazine. The piece offers some worthwhile insights into the charismatic character that is Tom Brady so often written about in broad strokes resulting in sketchy two dimensional pictures. Leibovitch accomplished much more than that.
While I admired Brady’s excellence on the field and his wonderful apparently totally successful life, Super Bowl winner, multimillionaire, happily married to a supermodel, etc., I had no clear idea about him as a human being.
Mark Leibovich fixed that. The entire idea about this blog is…
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General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.
Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 77 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I toiled in the working world.
This is my birthday picture from last year. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated.
This is from my birthday blog post last year:
One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. But I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly six years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading
As regular readers know, I feel very strongly about positive psychology. I stumbled across it some years ago and it certainly moved my life to a higher plane. You can read more about it at the end of this post. In the meantime, I wanted to share this nice write up from Harvard Health Publications.
A growing body of research indicates that optimism — a sense everything will be OK — is linked to a reduced risk of developing mental or physical health issues as well as to an increased chance of a longer life.
One of the largest such studies was led by researchers Dr. Kaitlin Hagan and Dr. Eric Kim at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their team analyzed data from 70,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, and found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death over an eight-year period, compared with women who were less optimistic. The most optimistic women had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer; 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease; 39% lower risk of dying from stroke; 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease; and 52% lower risk of dying from infection.
Yes, you can acquire optimism.
Even if you consider yourself a pessimist, there’s hope.Dr. Hagan notes that a few simple changes can help people improve your outlook on life. Previous studies have shown that optimism can be instilled by something as simple as having people think about the best possible outcomes in various areas of their lives,” she says. The following may help you see the world through rosier glasses: Continue reading
Here’s a hot one. Like spicy food? If so, you might live longer, say researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality – primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke – in a large prospective study. Seems a small price to pay.
The study was published recently in PLoS ONE.
Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial in the treatment of diseases, but only one other study – conducted in China and published in 2015 – has previously examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality. This new study corroborates the earlier study’s findings.
Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.
“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.
There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers’ health benefits, state Chopan and Littenberg in the study. Among them are the fact that capsaicin is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”
“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.
Regular readers know that because I have lost three family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia I have a serious interest in keeping myself safe. And, by extension, you. This isn’t just for seniors.
Rush Medical Center has some very useful suggestions on the subject.
Do you have the power to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Although some risk factors — age and family history — are beyond your control, increasing evidence from research indicates that you aren’t helpless.
Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and around the world have found that certain lifestyle choices can protect your brain against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Incorporate the following activities into your life, and your brain could reap the benefits Continue reading
Having an optimistic outlook on life—a general expectation that good things will happen—may help people live longer, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Based on prospective health data from the Nurses Study in 2004, it found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death—including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection—over an eight-year period, compared with women who were less optimistic.
The study appeared online December 7, 2016 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Continue reading
Some few of us are predisposed to age faster than others according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They may even die early despite a healthy lifestyle.
Needless to say, these were not welcome words to me. I spend my life eating intelligently and exercising daily to keep my mind and body aging as well as humanly possible. In light of the fact that I am 76 years old and going strong, it seems to be working.
The international team of scientists analyzed DNA in blood samples from more than 13,000 people in the United States and Europe and used an “epigenetic clock” to predict their life spans.
The clock calculates the aging of blood and other tissues by tracking a natural process (methylation) that chemically alters DNA over time, the researchers explained.
“We discovered that five percent of the population ages at a faster biological rate, resulting in a shorter life expectancy,” said principal investigator Steve Horvath. He is a professor of human genetics and biostatistics at the University of California, Los Angeles. (my emphasis)
I took some encouragement from these data. If five percent of the population is aging faster, then 95 percent of the population is aging normally. So it is 19 to one that you are not one of the unlucky ones with these bad genes.
“Accelerated aging increases these adults’ risk of death by 50 percent at any age,” Horvath added in a university news release.
“While a healthful lifestyle may help extend life expectancy, our innate aging process prevents us from cheating death forever,” he said. “Yet risk factors like smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure still predict mortality more strongly than one’s epigenetic aging rate.” (my emphasis. Sounds to me like more good reasons to continue living a healthy lifestyle.)
I have written numerous times in these pages that walking is the Cinderella of the exercise world – totally unappreciated. I have an entire Page on the Why you should walk more so I was more than a little pleased to read the American Cancer Society study on the benefits of walking an hour a day.
“Researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and others have found that getting 3 to 5 times the amount of recommended leisure-time physical activity results in the greatest benefit in terms of a longer life. The study was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. One way to achieve this benefit is by walking an hour a day.
“The US Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cancer Society are among organizations that recommend adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity or 75 minutes (1.25) hours of vigorous intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week. Moderate-intensity activities are those at the level of a brisk walk. Vigorous-intensity activities increase your heart rate and breathing, and make you sweat. Continue reading
Since the object of this blog is to live past 100, I thought this infographic with the obstacles in our way
causes of death might be useful.
This infographic displays data from the World Health Organization’s “Projections of mortality and causes of death, 2015 and 2030.” The report details all deaths in 2015 by cause and makes predictions for 2030, giving an impression of how global health will develop over the next 14 years.
Eat less; move more; live longer. I don’t know how many times I have written those words or you have read them. But, they are one of the cornerstones of this blog. You can get lots more detail throughout these pages, but check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for a good concise serving.
However, while reading Time Magazine’s Longevity Issue (Feb 22, 2016) I ran across an interesting item, namely, why do some unhealthy people live so long?
The author states, ” I don’t know how many unfiltered Chesterfields my grandfather smoked, but if you figure two packs a day for 75 years, it comes out to 1,095,000. He died on a Monday, at age 91, and he had been at work the previous Friday….”
It’s nice to hear your own ideas come out of someone else’s brain. To amplify this very useful post, check out these posts:
How much do you need to exercise?
Super tools for handling stress
Sleep habits affect weight loss and more
I have a Page on How important is a good night’s sleep?
Lastly, there is a cute video on Positive Psychology.
Our Better Health
Elson M. Haas, MD
What is called “Preventive Medicine” in America in the 21st Century is really more appropriately termed early intervention and early diagnosis. Having immunization injections or taking tests such as x-rays and mammograms, prostate exams, and blood tests are not really preventive in nature. Rather, they are an attempt to detect diseases in an early state. What is promoted as cancer prevention with the use of mammograms or prostate exams, sigmoidoscopes or colonoscopes is really early cancer diagnosis. This is done in hopes that cancer can be aggressively attacked before it spreads and destroys the entire body and life. Cancer represents a state of toxicity and its reaction on cellular mechanisms in the body; it is a disease of our body and not separate from it, and represents some breakdown or misguidance of our intricate immune system. After it occurs, it clearly is difficult to treat without…
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Instead of health and fitness funnies, I thought I would pass on some of these graphic ideas that impressed me recently. Hopefully, this week the laugh isn’t on me.
In conclusion, I wish more people would focus on living a healthy life than just dropping some unwanted pounds. The first way is positive and long lasting. The second is superficial and most of the time doesn’t result in permanent weight loss.
Seems a simple choice to me.
Regular readers know how strongly I feel about including exercise in our daily life. This is not just for weight control, but because our bodies are organic machines that need to move and be maintained. In addition, exercise also benefits the brain.
A study done at the Karolinska Institute found that seniors who had high glucose levels, but did not have diabetes, were 77 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The study took over nine years and covered 1173 individuals over the age of 75.
As reported in the book, Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, “As we age, insulin levels drop and glucose has a harder time getting into the cells to fuel them. Then glucose can skyrocket, which creates waste products in the cells – such as free radicals – and damages blood vessels, putting us at risk of a stroke and Alzheimer’s. When everything is balanced, insulin works against the buildup of amyloid plaque, but too much encourages the buildup, as well as inflammation, damaging surrounding neurons.